Ofsted, the newly privatised schools inspectorate, has said that there needs to be a review of the school day to take into account the amount of time needed for the national curriculum, and urged the introduction of compulsory homework in all schools.
In its report to Sir Ron Dearing, who is undertaking a review of the national curriculum at the request of the Secretary of State for Education, Ofsted attacks the National Curriculum Council and the Schools Examination and Assessment Council, the bodies responsible for administering the curriculum. 'Unco-ordinated and piecemeal information after teaching has begun is unhelpful and causes difficulties for teachers,' the report says.
Advice from Ofsted is likely to be taken seriously by Sir Ron, whose interim report is expected later this month, since it comes from Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England and draws on first-hand experience of government inspectors.
The report is sympathetic to teachers, admitting that they have a heavy workload. The assessment system is too complex, it says, and teachers are finding it increasingly difficult to keep track of pupils' progress.
The inspectors believe that the national curriculum should end when children are 14. Up to then the core subjects of English, maths and science, and seven foundation subjects should be kept but the content should be reduced and simplified.
Thereafter, it suggests a common core of subjects alongside others chosen from a specified range, which would include vocational courses. This would answer criticisms that at this stage the demands of the national curriculum are making it difficult for pupils to study a second foreign language, classics or vocational courses.
The inspectors suggest a split between what should be taught and assessed as a legal requirement, and what could be optional.
Nearly 4,000 teachers from the National Association for the Teaching of English have signed a letter to John Patten, Secretary of State for Education, asking him to withdraw proposals for a new English curriculum.
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